(Sigh. I know I’m taking a big risk by posting things like this. But the title of the blog does warn you that I’m an idiot, and I have a big mouth. I might just be a glutton for punishment too. We’ll find out soon enough. But I intend to let people know that I have controversial positions.
EDIT: I have made certain claims here, and I am constantly re-examining them. Like anything, I should never stop questioning, probing for better understanding. The best thing anyone can do for me when they read it is challenge it. Ask me the right questions, make me think about what I’ve said and what you have to say.)
A Cherry Picker’s Diary
I am a cherry picker. I am probably the biggest cherry picker of all, if I follow the definition used by atheists and anti-theists, because I have a spiritual belief that uses the Bible as a reference. But while I refer to things in this book, what I am picking from is life in general.
The primary assertion I will make is that my belief is a form of Christian philosophy. It is different in many ways from traditional Christian belief and [I have removed this statement in the interest of promoting rational discourse] I am not so sure I want that identification.
As a philosophy, it has what I think is a strong linguistic component, and it is not “religious” in the conventional sense. Some atheists have remarked that I am religious by virtue of my spiritual belief; I say “religion” has connotations today that do not apply to me or my life. Any church or no church is fine with me (as long as the members of a church are reasonably respectful to me and my belief). All too often, the dogma of a church turns me away.
Atheists and anti-theists disagree vehemently with fundamentalist Christians, as they should, but take the position that a fundamentalist view of the Bible is a more honest interpretation. The “cherry picker’s” approach, that of a moderate or liberal Christian, is more hypocritical, and more dangerous. I don’t know how right they are about cherry pickers.
They are right that a fundamentalist approach is more honest. However, this is only because the premise of their belief, and the belief of the moderates, is that the Bible is the “True and Revealed Word of God.” I will question this statement, even as someone who has chosen to believe the essence of the words of Jesus Christ. It implies that this one book is the only source of wisdom, the only source of truth; all others are not only inferior, they are lies.
And yet, the Bible has been shown to be the source of quite a few untruths, as many in the scientific community will agree. I take this view: it is a compilation of many books by many different authors concerning two different religions, one inspired by the other. They are not all the books written on these subjects. They are merely the ones chosen by a particular group of men to represent what constituted their belief at that time. A council of cherry pickers, in fact, and a historically significant one.
King James followed this up later (for his own selfish reasons) with his cherry-picked compilation. So even fundamentalists apply their “honest” approach to a cherry picker’s book.
The Bible cannot be the “True and Revealed Word.” I still use it as a guide to what I believe is wisdom (but not necessarily “truth”): the teachings of a perhaps misunderstood revolutionary and philosopher, Jesus Christ. It is only a guide, one among many (albeit the one that first turned my attention to the words of Christ), because I have reason to suspect the words are not recorded accurately, but the essence of his philosophy can still be discerned from the gospels.
God’s Word cannot be contained in a book, and that is because everything is the Word. It is so vast it must burst through the seams of a physical world; it can be anywhere, in anything. And it is most clearly inscribed in human hearts than anywhere else.
The word “heart” only refers to a particular organ in science. If we take it in the artistic sense to mean “spirit,” the location of which is irrelevant, and understand that it cannot be verified scientifically, then it means the essence of each of us as individuals. I am not sure there is an essence to individuals, however, and will be more inclined to think it is the essence of everything, collectively.
My position is that Jesus Christ does not have to be God, does not need to have performed miracles. According to many, he probably did not; there is no evidence. It doesn’t matter. He walked among many people, teaching a controversial and quite rebellious philosophy, risking the anger and hostility of the Temple priests. And the most significant thing he told people was to love one another.
A problem many people will have are statements like “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever shall believeth in him shall have everlasting life.” Since I am a cherry picker, how should I pick this? I have already acknowledged that I cannot trust the accuracy of the Bible. Something might have been lost in the translation; it may have been translated (or authored) by someone with specific biases (and probably was).
To me, this is a much more honest view of the Bible, and it focuses on the philosophy of love at the root of Christianity. From this view, I can conceive of a new (cherry picker’s) interpretation for John 3:16: God’s Word is everywhere but it may have been most clear to humankind through the teachings of Jesus Christ; if we believe what Jesus taught, and live our lives accordingly, we will live forever (or at least leave a lasting, positive impression on those we love). The thing is, someone might live this way without believing in Christ, the Trinity, the Bible, Hellfire, Adam and Eve; they can live this way without believing in any god or religion. Despite the wording of the text, and others like it, the belief in Christ himself, or his resurrection, is not a requirement for “salvation.” It does not give the Christian exclusive claim to morality, either.
Of course, is there even a need for salvation? I believe there is; we desperately need to be saved from ourselves. And a philosophy of love might just have the potential to do that, in more than one way, so long as we actually live it (to the best of our limited, human capabilities) and not just pretend we do.
My faith is in the essence of my philosophy, which is based on the gospel of John, chapter one, verse one and verse fourteen. This means that I do attribute divinity to Jesus Christ, at least in the sense that he opened humanity’s eyes and ears to the Word (or tried to) and because everything is divine. Also, while many of Paul’s words strike me as reactionary and regressive, I am willing to accept his assertion that God is love, because that is the God I believe Jesus introduced to the theistic argument. I will agree with Paul’s definition of faith, too: “Evidence of things unseen, knowledge of things unknowable.”
This is purely subjective “evidence” and “knowledge”; it is weak in comparison to empirical data and interpretation based on rigorous tests and peer review. There could be a subjective test to determine if a belief and the actions thereof are compatible with the idea of a loving God. However, this kind of test only has subjective meaning relative to a subjective premise. It is meaningless in a scientific context; any kind of God, let alone a loving one, is extremely unlikely. My own experience of life is enough to make me wonder where this mysterious omnipresent being is hiding.
So I balance my faith with evidence-based belief, and I make sure I fully understand my subjective reasons for believing. The reasons for my faith are love and hope: I love, and I love very much; therefore I hope my love will never end. I have objective reasons for evidence-based belief and for tempering faith-based belief with it. Although the truth is that it goes both ways. My acceptance of natural philosophy is balanced by my understanding that some things might not have physical substance and cannot be measured or explained by empirical means. In fact, something might exist “outside” or “beyond” the universe.
Whatever it is, if we claim it created everything, some observation of the universe can help us infer a few characteristics of this being, and it doesn’t look good. If it is perfect and all-powerful, God should have been able to give us free will and maintain our perfection, the perfection of everything, for eternity. All the “mystery” about an “unknowable plan” is a tactic to suppress the questioning mind, to discourage free-thinking.
We can use the story of Lucifer’s fall from grace to illustrate. God made the angels before creating humans but he did not give them free will. If angels do not have free will, Lucifer could not have rebelled unless God told him to. What does this story mean? Why would God order Lucifer, the “shining one,” the “morning star,” to rebel and still hold him accountable for it? What purpose could this possibly serve? The only logical conclusions, if God is love, are that it must be either a metaphor to promote some deeper understanding of reality or a lie. Even for a metaphor, it is deliberately confusing.
If a divine being exists, then it cannot be perfect, and the only thing really “divine” about it is the spark of life, its consciousness, and perhaps its potential to exist outside of time. God’s existence would have to be analogous to the principles of quantum physics, in a sense (which doesn’t prove anything, so please do not mistake me). The universe was not always here, but the conditions necessary for a universe to bloom were. The conditions necessary for God’s consciousness to “awaken” have always existed, and that divine consciousness could be evolving, growing, transforming into something else, something I hope is better. Although, if it has a plan, we might be able to find indications of it by continuing to observe nature and study science.
For the subjective reasons I spoke of, I have decided to believe in God and that God is love. I believe that love will see us through the hell we have made for ourselves and the indifference of nature.
I can already hear many Christians shouting, “Blasphemer! Heretic! How can you say the Bible isn’t the Word of God and belief in the resurrection isn’t necessary for salvation?” The first question I have already answered. The second also relies in part on the infallibility of the Bible. However, the resurrection and, by extension, the “eyewitness accounts” of the ascension are presented as “evidence” that God will do the same for me. My spiritual belief does not need evidence.
Significantly, Jesus’ rebellion was against the religious leaders of his people, and not so much the Roman invaders. Those who were most angered by him were the priests of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Jesus Christ fulfilled the law passed down through Moses. Perhaps this was the only way to get anyone at all to take him seriously. Maybe God did leave hints of the new way to come through people like Isaiah and Daniel, too. Jesus did not build on an old religion, however; he introduced a new–a revolutionary–understanding of the spiritual life.
Condemning others based on our belief is unnecessary and wrong (and this is relative, because there are some judgments we can make); conversion is unnecessary and offensive. It also contradicts belief in a loving God. People do not need to be threatened with Hellfire or promised a Heavenly reward to have morals. The only “witness” we need to present is a life of love and respect for others. Anyone who does so lives according to the Word, even if they do not see it that way; although the sad truth is too many do not.
This philosophy is “Christian” in its estimation and esteem for the teachings of Jesus Christ, with or without a supernatural context. But the supernatural is real; it exists in the form of “the Word,” which is the foundation for everything.
- Atheism and Anti-theism. (westcoastatheist.wordpress.com)
- Why Gospels Are Not “Reportage” (vridar.wordpress.com)
- Exclusive: Atheist Activist Answers Your Questions About Jesus Christ & the ‘Completely Unreliable’ New Testament (theblaze.com)